MENLO PARK, Calif.—It wasnt exactly like watching Chris Berman, Chris Mortensen and Mel Kiper Jr.s hair helmet on ESPN during NFL Draft Day, waiting to see which lucky college players will be drafted in the first round.
But, to a slightly lesser degree, it had its own feeling of anticipation and excitement.
Were talking about a Silicon Valley-area Fantasy Football draft day a couple of weeks ago.
The scene: The lower back room of the legendary Dutch Goose, an old-fashioned, locally revered burger n suds sports bar and restaurant with the requisite peanut shells on the floor, pool table and high-definition video screens in every corner. The place is home to CEOs and blue collar folk alike.
A group of perhaps 40 participants crammed into a Goose room designed to seat about half that many. Drafters busily shuffled through their notes. A large board with a matrix was set up against a wall, with teams and corresponding player picks lined up.
"Yes! I got Shaun Alexander," said one beaming drafter, jubilant at landing the 2005 NFL rushing champion from the Seattle Seahawks with one of the first selections. And on it went, for about two hours.
Fantasy football assigns points to NFL players based on their performances (mostly yardage and touchdowns), and the game has become so popular that it is pushing the boundaries of technology and giving companies a new advertising vehicle.
At the end of the season, participants examine their players performance totals and win prizes for their knowledge and expertise.
Imagine this scene multiplied thousands of times across the country, across the world, online. An awful lot of people are getting into fantasy sports—mainly football and baseball.
With Game 1 of the 2006 NFL season is Sept. 7 in Pittsburgh (Steelers versus Miami Dolphins). The teams have been picked, the standings have been established and the races are on.
Approximately 16 million to 20 million adults and a similarly large number of people under 18 will check their players performances each week until the season begins to peter out in January ahead of the Super Bowl. It adds up to a lot of trafic—and potential storage issues—for the host sites.
And all that valuable sports data (weekly and season statistics, personal backgrounds and photographs of players, team records, team logos and standings) is stored in servers belonging to ESPN.com, Yahoo.com, NFL.com, Viacoms CBSSportsLine.com and others.
Forum serves fantasy sports industry
The FSTA (Fantasy Sports Trade Association) is headed by Jeffrey R. Thomas of Kenosha, Wis., the founder and CEO of SportsBuff.com.
The FSTA aims to provide a forum for interaction between hundreds of existing and emerging companies in the fast-growing fantasy sports industry.
"We serve the pioneers that invested in and grew the industry in the 1980s and 1990s. And we serve the visionaries, innovators, investors, advertisers and sponsors that would like to network and learn more about the fantasy sports industry," Thomas told eWEEK via e-mail.
Thomas said that the FSTA now has four years worth of research, so it is now beginning to get a handle on how widespread the phenomenon really is.
"A new FSTA study … shows that 12 to 20 million people over 18 play fantasy sports. Thats a big range, so we use 16 million [as the median number]. Its not an exact science, but our research shows 7 percent to 10 percent of growth in [each of] the past few years," Thomas said.
Thomas said the FSTA does not have under-18 numbers but that they are "slated for next years research."
Gaming analysts have estimated that at least as many under-18 players are online each day as there are adults, so the estimated range is even greater for the total fantasy football participant pool: from 24 million to 40 million.